Highlights of Bangladesh election that was marred by controversy

An elderly woman puts ballot paper inside a ballot box after casting her vote in the morning during the 12th general election in Dhaka, Bangladesh, January 7, 2024. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

Bangladesh held its general election on January 7, 2024, with nearly 120 million eligible voters. The vote was marred by protests, violence and low turn-out which placed the incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in a comfortable position to win a fourth straight term.

The South Asian country’s main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) boycotted the poll after the incumbent refused to resign for a caretaker government to run the election which was contested by nearly 2,000 candidates vying for the 300 directly elected parliament seats.

The high number of candidates including 436 independent candidates was condemned by the BNP which alleges that the ruling Awami League party has included “dummy” candidates to make the election look credible, a claim denied by the ruling party.

At least four people died on the eve of the election when violence erupted around the country with a passenger train allegedly set on fire and several polling booths set ablaze, Reuters reported.

Nearly 800,000 security personnel from the police, paramilitary and police auxiliaries were deployed around the country to guard the polls on election day with as many as 127 foreign observers and 59 foreign journalists tracking the election process.

Rights groups have accused the government of targeting opposition leaders and supporters, while the prime minister and her party have repeatedly condemned the main opposition party describing them as troublemakers set on sabotaging the elections.

Despite accusations of human rights violations and suppression of free speech and dissent, Hasina has been credited with turning around the economy and the country’s massive garments industry. 

76-year-old Hasina secured a fourth straight term with her party winning almost 75% of seats amid low turnout, Reuters reported on January 8. She told reporters on Monday that improving the economy would be the main aim for the next five years.


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